Monday, November 15, 2010


Alert: Boring history post ahead

Went to Polonnaruwa a couple of weekends back, main reason being to attend a homecoming of an office friend, but made it into a sightseeing trip as well. Unfortunately we couldn’t to a very thorough tour since we were bit pressed for time.

Polonnaruwa gets its importance as one of several capital cities in the history of Sri Lanka. It was also known as “Kandawarupitiya” during the 2nd century BC, after the fact that King Dutugemunu had his main camp there during his campaign against King Elara.

The first kingdom of Anuradhapura, which lasted for more than 1500 years, lost its glory after 1017 AD, due to the invasion from the South Indian Chola Empire. However, even before this, Polonnaruwa enjoyed status as a second city, and sometimes as the capital city. The first king to reign there was King Agbo VII durin 667 – 685 AD.

After the invasion, two Chola kings by the name of Raja Raja and Rajendra, father and son, ruled Sri Lanka from Polonnaruw, for a period of 77 years, from 993 to 1070 AD. They were basically bad-asses and the oppressed people got fed up with them. So they rallied around a Prince called Keerithi and supported him to get rid of the invaders. Price Keerthi was crowned as King Vijyabahu I, or Vijayabahu the Great. He reigned for 40 years and was followed by 20 rulers, 18 Kings and 2 Queens, ensuring the glory of Polonnaruwa till 1232 AD, when it fell due to a Kalinga invasion. Polonnaruwa’s demise started because of various power struggles within the royal families and ended with the Indian invasion. The last king to rule here was a Kalinga king by the name of Kalinga Maga, an oppressive tyrant.

A stone tablet used to chronicle the deeds of the Kings

Sath Mahal Prasadaya – A temple believed to be built in the style of East Asian pagoda’s, with 7 levels. Built by King Parakramabahu.

Sath Mahal Prasadaya

Vatadage – A circular building housing several Buddha statues in the seated position.


Sandakadapahana or Moonstone, intricately carved stone and the base stairs





Dude, where are my arms

Atadage – A temple used to house the sacred tooth relic built by king Vijayabahu I. Named so because it was supposedly built in 8 days.


Nishanka Latha Mandapaya – A hall of sorts where pirith chanting is done, built by King Nissankamalla.

Thuparama – Believed to be built during the late Anuradhapura era, to house Buddha statues. Has walls 7 feet thick.

Set in stone

In the Shadows

Gal Vihara or Uththararama – Built by King Parakramabahu


Carved out of living stone

Gal Vihara

Pothgul Vihara. Statue some believes to be of King Parakaramabahu, while some believe it's one of his advisors.

Family Fun Time

Visited Somawathiya and Sigiriya on the way back.

Data taken from a book called “Ape Urumaya Polonnaruwa” by P. R. S. Bandaranayaka


Chavie said...

Nice pictures mate. Haven't been that way in ages. If I remember correctly, one of the shrines (maybe Thiwanka pilimageya) has some impressive frescoes that have survived to this day. :)

sbarrkum said...

Parakaramabahu I too was half Kalinga as his mother Ratnavali was from Kalinga.

Nissanka Malla was completely Kalinga and was not even born in Sri Lanka

The architecture of Polonnaruwa look just like Bagan in Burma/Myanmar. The scale in Bagan is about a hundred times bigger. See photos of Bagan at bottom of Polonnaruwa link or here